Veteran visual artist Robert Stromberg's Maleficent is a supremely efficient and dazzling motion picture. It presents the origins story of the evil queen from the Sleeping Beauty story economically, narratively, but with an extravagance of visual embellishments -- the grandest being star Angelina Jolie's cheekbones. They're absolutely amazing -- witchy and old Hollywood. In fact, every shot of the queen is wondrous. Jolie, one of the producers of the film, plays the wronged queen of the fairies and guardian of the creatures living in the magical moors that are threatened by greedy humans. (Yes, the parallel to Jolie's philanthropic work in developing nations is stark.) Spurned and dewinged by a man she foolishly trusted, Maleficent curses the daughter of the man whose treachery wins him the throne (Sharlto Copley). The queen's infamous curse is that on her 16th birthday the Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) would prick her finger on a spinning wheel's needle and fall into a death-like sleep. Over the course of those 16 years, however, Maleficent and her raven helper (Sam Riley) watch after the child who has been entrusted to the care of three inept and disputatious pixies (Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton and Juno Temple) living in a cottage in an enchanted wood. The child touches the bitter queen's heart but nothing can reverse the curse but a true-love's kiss. It's an interesting twist but I'm not sure if young children, who will love the animation, will pick up on the film's message about the nature and meaning of love and devotion. Recommended.


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